COVID-19: cleaning guidelines for apartment living

Cleaning visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community-living settings.

Current evidence suggests that COVID-19 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Scientists found that COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24-hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

 

What’s the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but by removing them it decreases their ability to breed and the risk of spreading infection
  • Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. Killing germs on a surface after cleaning further lowers the risk of infection and spreading.

 

Committees should ask their cleaning contractor to:

  • Refer to the Australian Government Department of Health Cleaning guide
  • Send you their COVID-19 cleaning plan that outlines how they are handling the situation. For example, stipulate the requirements to maintain social distancing measures, and increase the number of cleans, length of clean, and what gets cleaned
  • Provide their Safe Work Method Statement, which now include additional processes including Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and social distancing measures
  • Practise social distancing in common areas and display signs or section off areas where they expect to frequent – operate as if someone has been infected
    • Disinfect equipment before it is brought on-site
    • Regularly sanitise hands, and ask them to disinfect door handles and other surfaces after they have completed work
    • Bring their own pens if any signatures are required
  • Remember, the main obligation of an owners corporation or body corporate is to maintain common property. Committees should bear in mind their responsibilities when deciding whether to continue with works. Common areas must always be maintained to a standard that is safe for residents and guests.

 

How does routine apartment cleaning need to change because of COVID-19?

Cleaning is an essential part of disinfection. The length of time that the COVID-19 virus survives on inanimate surfaces varies depending on factors such as the amount of contaminated body fluid – such as respiratory droplets – present and environmental temperature and humidity.

It is good practice to routinely clean surfaces as follows:

Frequently touched surfaces in common areas should be cleaned frequently with a detergent solution:

  • Door handles (front entrances, storage lockers, service or equipment rooms)
  • Light switches
  • Balustrades and railings
  • Mailboxes
  • Common area bathrooms, toilets, faucet handles, sinks and sanitary or nappy disposal bins
  • Garbage areas (chutes, door handles, rubbish bin handles)
  • Doors and surfaces such as tables, chairs, benches in the BBQ or entertainment area, for example

Minimally touched surfaces such as floors, ceilings and walls should also be cleaned more regularly during a health crisis.

Detergent solutions and wipes are adequate for cleaning general surfaces. Committees should direct cleaners to take extra care of floors during this time, especially if there are young children in the building as they are likely to touch floors.

When using the laundry room, wash your hands before and after using the facility. Ensure you use detergent and a hot water wash, and using the dryer is recommended. Remember, to maintain social distancing.

 

What cleaning product should be used?

Detergent solution (as per manufacturer’s instructions) can be used, with the exact choice of detergent determined by the nature of the surface and likely degree of contamination. Detergent wipes may be used, but should not be used as a replacement for the mechanical cleaning process

Steps to take to ensure disinfection:

  • Use freshly made diluted household bleach solution, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for appropriate dilution and use
  • Make sure the area you are cleaning is well ventilated
  • Wipe the area with a bleach solution using disposable paper towels or a disposable cloth
  • Dispose of gloves and mask in a leak-proof plastic bag
  • Wash hands well using soap and water, and dry with a disposable paper or single-use cloth towel. If water is unavailable, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub.

 

Hand hygiene in common areas

It is a good idea to place hand sanitisers (that contains at least 60% alcohol) and disinfectant wipes in common areas. Ask your cleaning contractor whether they can supply this but bear in mind stocks for hand sanitisers are currently low and they may be having trouble accessing supplies. If this is the case, the committee may need to take on this task themselves. Ensure that common area toilets are well stocked with soap and disposal hand towels.

 

Why soap is so important

Soap is a powerful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The COVID-19 is encased in a layer of fat. Soap breaks that layer of fat apart and leaves it unable to infect you. It also makes your hands slippery and with the movement of washing, the virus is washed away. To do it properly, wash your hands like as if you have just cut up some chillies and want to put in your contact lens next.

We all need to play a part in protecting our homes and our families. If you have any concerns about the cleaning standards in your building, talk to your strata manager to access PICA Group’s list of cleaning contractors who can undertake rigorous and methodical cleaning work, or complete this form to be contacted by a team member from Assured Building Maintenance (NSW only).

 

To receive regular COVID-19 updates and tips for managing community living, sign up here. Alternatively, if you have a strata property related question, post your question to StrataFAQ.com.au

 

Note: We are not in the position to provide health advice and urge you to keep up-to-date with the guidance provided by the Australian Government.